Get to Know 5 Women Who Keep Arlington Safe

Published on May 31, 2018

They fight fires and respond to medical emergencies. They proactively patrol your neighborhoods. They ensure the proper intake and release of inmates at the County jail. They answer 9-1-1 calls. Women in Arlington County's public safety agencies and departments take on a diverse array of roles, all of which were on display at the second annual Women in Public Safety Outreach Event on June 2.


Corporal Beth Lennon has been with the Arlington County Police Department for more than 27 years.

Q: What is your role in the ACPD?

A: I am one of the police department's community outreach team members. We conduct outreach and engagement in the community to help build relationships with those we serve. Some of my favorite outreach events the team participates in are the summer camps and after-school programs we visit. Our involvement gives the children an opportunity to get to know an officer in uniform and see us beyond the police officers portrayed in TV and movies. One of the most rewarding programs I participate in is the Everybody Wins! DC mentorship program at Key School. Every Thursday, I meet with my mentee over lunch to read a book of their choosing. The program promotes children's literacy and I hope to inspire a lifelong love of learning for my mentee.

Q: What drew you to work in public safety and the police department?

A: Public service is in my blood. I came from a longline of family members who have served in various public safety roles and that inspired me to pursue a career where I could make a difference in the lives of those in my community. This August, I'll be completing my 28th year with the police department.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about Saturday's event?

A: This is our second annual event and I'm most looking forward to inspiring the future generations of public safety officers. This event gives the participants an opportunity to learn about the various roles women play in serving and protecting our community and we want to show that this is a field for everyone. The event will offer activities suitable for the whole family including a bike rodeo, fingerprinting with our detectives, vehicle display and demonstrations by our K9 Unit and the all-female honor guard. New this year, we're having participants take on the role of detective in our Escape Room. They'll be challenged to put the pieces together and help our Crime Scene Unit solve the case. I hope the community attends, interacts with our women in public safety, and leaves saying, "This is fun. I'd love to do this as a career."


Deputy Markita Edwards has worked in the Arlington County Sheriff's Office for more than three years.

Q: What is your role in the ACSO?

A: Recently, I was promoted to lead processing deputy. I take care of the intakes and releases at the jail. I verify court cards; I verify warrants. I take inmates in front of the magistrate; I assist the magistrate with any questions about the record jacket of the inmate. I make sure they don't have any detainers, and make sure that all the paperwork matches up with the courts. If there are any questions, I am the liaison between the courts and records.

Q: What drew you to work in public safety and the sheriff's office?

A: There are different avenues within the sheriff's office. It's not just being the jail deputy. There are different things that you can do, different departments within the agency. There's room for advancement. We have records. We have warrants. We have transportation. There is working in the courts. You can move all over within the department.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about Saturday's event?

A: I'm excited to show the children, the kids, that there are different opportunities in public safety for females. I know when I was growing up you would just see male figures and male roles. I think it's a great event for the kids to know that there are females and different things within the agency that you can do. It's not just putting on handcuffs or paperwork. All together, we make a team.


Firefighter/EMT III Marcia Reed has worked in the Arlington County Fire Department for almost 11 years.

Q: What is your role in the ACFD?

A: As a Firefighter/Paramedic, I diligently serve the citizens of Arlington and the surrounding jurisdictions. I work a 24-hour shift, every other day for three days, and then have four days off (work 24, off 24, work 24, off 24, work 24, off 4 days). A typical day starts with checking out my equipment and cleaning the station, followed by training and responding to incidents. We answer many different call types, including activated fire alarms, water/gas leaks, fires, and calls for sick and injured patients. In addition to protecting property and performing lifesaving interventions, there's a variety of other tasks I perform. These include: attending information sessions with the public; speaking about fire safety, prevention and home exit plans; attending recruiting events; planning our yearly summer camp for girls; attending training classes; and advocating for patients. We also do home safety checks going door-to-door every Saturday, to make sure homes have working smoke detectors, show the homeowners how they should work, and, if they don't have smoke detectors, we provide and install them.

Q: What drew you to work in public safety and the fire department?

A:  To me there is nothing more rewarding than giving of oneself without an expectation of return. I've always wanted to help others, and that remained a priority when I entered the work field. The fire department application process opened, my mother found it, and I applied. Although I never wanted to be a firefighter, I fell in love with the job when I became one. I find true value in giving myself to other people. The fire department is very family oriented, and supportive of one another. I think what we do is really great. I've had a lot of jobs throughout my life, but this is the place for me.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about Saturday's event?

A: I'm looking forward to the opportunity to engage with and educate the community. If we could recruit more women into these male-dominated careers, that would be amazing. It will be great spending time explaining and showing examples of my job to the community, while encouraging and showing young ladies, they too can have a career in fire and Emergency Medical Services.


Chief Watch Officer and PIO Jen Meyers started working in Arlington as a 9-1-1 dispatcher in 1991.

Q: What is your role in Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management?

A: I am the Chief Watch Officer for the department, and also have the collateral duty of being the Public Information Officer. The Watch Desk is a specialized unit that provides situational awareness for the County. We take in information that could operationally impact any Arlington County services, and we disseminate it as appropriate. We're in charge of all the Arlington Alerts that go out. We monitor various cameras around the County, as well as follow the news channels. Social media is a huge resource, and we follow it as well.

Q: What drew you to work in public safety and emergency management?

A: I graduated from college and wanted to go into juvenile probation, but at the time there were no jobs. I started in the Arlington County 9-1-1 center in November 1991 as a 9-1-1 dispatcher. I had left at the end of 2001 and returned to the County in 2012. Then about four years ago, I moved over to the emergency management side of the house and started in the Watch Desk as a Watch Officer. Two years ago, I became the supervisor of the Watch Desk. It takes a special breed of person because you're going to work 24/7 365 days a year, but there's this great thing you can be a part of by helping create a safe and resilient community here in Arlington.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about Saturday's event?

A: The community engagement; that public engagement where they can see we're real people who make a difference. To give them exposure to things that they may not have realized before. The 9-1-1 dispatchers are going to have their headsets and doing CPR demos. We'll have the Hazard Wheel, which is a pinwheel with different categories of questions for different age groups. They spin the wheel and then we'll give them a question, such as how many feet of moving water could knock you off your feet? It just gives them that education, but it's interactive education, which is huge and more fun. We'll have examples of "go bags" to show people what they need in emergency situations to stockpile for 72 hours. The event gives people exposure to what we actually do. It helps them understand, what is the 9-1-1 center? What is emergency management in Arlington County?


Debbie De La Fuente has been a 9-1-1 dispatcher in Arlington County for 11 years.

Q: What is your role in Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management?

A: Dispatchers are responsible for answering non-emergency and emergency calls, and we dispatch police, fire, and EMS. We also handle all teletype functions. That is entering wanted people, stolen items, and other things into the national databases. I'm also a trainer. New people who come are assigned to me. The training period is about 18 months. I'm also on part of the outreach team, and I'm heading up a bicycle training soon. We'll be exploring the trails. During the summer, we get a lot of calls about injuries or suspicious people on the trails. It's really important to know that geography well because a lot of times people are lost, and we have a lot of tourists who come into Arlington. It's really important to have these visualizations so you can help people figure out where they are.

Q: What drew you to work in public safety and dispatching?

A: When I was 18, I went to a job fair in California, where I'm from, and they had a dispatcher booth set up next to the police department. It piqued my interest because I wasn't interested in being a police officer or a firefighter and being out on the front lines. I knew [dispatching] would be a good fit for me. We call ourselves the "first, first responders" because we do play a major role. It's nice to get that satisfaction every day of helping people. There's also frustration that comes with it, but when you get a compliment from someone or you know you saved someone's life, it's amazing.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about Saturday's event?

A: I really enjoy the community outreach and educating people. There's a lot of things that people don't know about, and these things that we're educating them on can help save their lives. I also think it's important for people to have a face to the voice. And we want to have friendly faces for them. Especially for the kids, so they're not afraid to call.